Another 17 people were injured — three critically — in the blast aboard the Deepwater Horizon, which occurred about 10 p.m. Tuesday. The rig was about 52 miles southeast of Venice, Louisiana, said Coast Guard Senior Chief Petty Officer Mike O’Berry. As of late afternoon Wednesday as many as six firefighting vessels were working to contain the massive fire caused by the explosion.
“It obviously was a catastrophic event,” O’Berry said.
An investigation into the cause of the blast is under way, but there are no indications it was a terrorist incident, the Coast Guard said.
The Coast Guard dispatched helicopters from New Orleans,Louisiana, and Mobile, Alabama, to help evacuate workers from the rig and search for the missing. It also sent four cutters to the scene.
Coast Guard Rear Adm. Mary Landry said search and rescue crews in the air and sea were prepared to search through the night for the missing workers using infrared devices.
It was not known whether the workers were able to make it to one of the rig’s lifeboats — fully enclosed, fire-resistant vessels designed to evacuate people quickly.
Officials said 126 people were on board at the time of the explosion.